The funniest border crossing / rip off ever
Korgas Travel Blog› entry 329 of 658 › view all entries
People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Hannes (Sweden)
It was a little after 09.30 when our sleeper bus arrived into the Chinese border town of Korgas. It was a 'new country day' as Julia and I call it, which brings excitement and horror, the latter due to having to cross through the border areas. I went off to use a toilet and nearly ended up in a punch up with the attendant, who was trying to charge me double the price of everyone else. He wasn't even hiding the fact about what he was doing, so when i left my money and just walked off, he was shaking his fist in my face - loser.
Taxi drivers swarmed around us in the bus station, telling us it was 100RMB ($14) to get to the border, so we left the station and paid 10RMB ($1.
The border was still not open and i guess this had something to do with the 2 hour time difference between the countries. When the gates were finally unlatched, there was a mad scramble of people all pushing the person in front and shouting at the person behind for pushing them, it was hilarious.
Eventually we got our exit stamps out of China and joined another mob of pushing people to get on a minivan, which would take us to the Kazakh border. I asked a Chinese officer if it was a long way and he just said it was 20RMB ($3) and that we had to take the van, so i assumed it was.
Finally we made it on board along with 11 other people and a lot of baggage, it was a tight squeeze to say the least! After handing over 350 Tengge each - the amount owed in Kazakh money, as we had already changed all of our Yuan - we were then told that this wasn't enough and that we actually owed 162RMB, or 3250 Tengge, between us. Doing the math i could tell that the exchange rate wasn't adding up and also why the hell did we have to pay so much all of a sudden!?
Other people on the bus started dishing out their money and there was little choice but to do the same. They ended up accepting 3000 from us, which was still too much, but the two faced passengers who were one minute trying to be friends with us, were the next minute telling the driver to kick us off for trying to figure out what we were paying for.
The van passed through the $100 gate and went all of 200m before stopping in front of the Kazakh border gate... WHAT THE F**K! The three of us burst out laughing, this was the biggest con I'd ever seen, but everyone was in on it and there was nothing you could do. How much they must make in one day is anyones guess, but i can tell you it must be a lot. Welcome to Central Asia, my dreams were been fulfilled!
Kazakh immigration was a painless exercise and only took a few minutes, but once we had left the building, we were still 400km from Almaty and with little clue of how we were going to get there.
Walking up towards some cars on the horizon seemed like our only hope of escaping the place, so we donned our backpacks and set off in the searing heat. One taxi drove past us and offered to take us to Almaty for 3,000 Tengge each, which was still too much, so we carried on walking.
5 minutes of negotiations led to a Kazakh guy called Murat offering to take us for 2,000 Tennge ($16) each, which was still quite a lot, but we had run out of options! He still needed to fill the spare seat in the car, but kindly said he would drive to the nearest village of Zharkent and try and find the customer there.
It took about 20 minutes for a Kazakh guy to turn up and then we decided to head to a restaurant for some lunch, before setting off on the journey. I had a really good meal of meat and chips and Julia's dumplings in broth were also delicious. It was a little bit more expensive than China, which we had expected, but not too bad at around $3 each, including coca cola.
The 4 hour journey began through quite drab terrain, but soon we got to see some pretty mountains and small villages. Murat was a decent enough bloke and we chatted away in Russian - ok i tried a bit and Julia translated the rest :) He had deliberately broken his speedometer in the car, as he said that when he knew how fast he was going it scared him, so it was better not to know! Luckily we weren't going too fast when we got a flat tyre. Murat had it fixed within a jiffy, which quite impressed me.
Almaty came into sight around 17.30 and after dropping our other passenger off, we were taken to the railway station. I had read in the book whilst en-route, that a taxi ride from Almaty to Charyn Canyon was normally $120, and this was about the same distance, if not less than what we had travelled today, so i expected to be asked for more money when we got out of the taxi. All i got was a hand shake, the wish of safe travels and help with my bags. There are still some decent people left in the World hahaha.